Digest>Archives> March 2004

(Not so) Little (Light) House on the Prairie For Sale

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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Iowa’s only lighthouse is part of the Lighthouse ...

Have you ever dreamed of owning a lighthouse? If you have, you’ve probably had visions of a quaint building on the ocean or by one of the Great Lakes. One of the last places you’d probably think of is Iowa, smack in the heartland of America. But there is one operating lighthouse in the state and it’s currently for sale. It’s attached to a successful bed and breakfast inn, with a gift shop. “The only thing missing is water!” adds owner/builder/innkeeper Bill Klauer.

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This aerial view was taken when the lighthouse ...

Forty-two years ago, Bill and Jo Ann Klauer built their dream house high on a rural hill in the Mississippi River Valley, about three and one-half miles northwest of Dubuque, Iowa’s oldest city. They raised five children in the house and added onto it as necessary until it became, according to Bill, a “monster of six thousand square feet of love and labor.” After the kids grew up and moved out, Bill and Jo Ann were inspired by an article in their local paper that described several thriving local bed and breakfasts. “We could keep our dream home with all its family history and memories, and utilize its size to create an attractive country inn,” says Bill. And so they opened the Valleyview Bed and Breakfast Inn.

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Jo Ann and Bill Klauer, owners of the Lighthouse ...

Bill and Jo Ann are longtime lighthouse buffs. They followed the stories of sales and transfers of lighthouses in publications like this one, waiting for their chance to own their own. But it eventually became apparent that this wouldn’t be possible, so Bill decided that if he couldn’t buy one, he’d build one. He visited some 218 lighthouses, took measurements and lots of photos, and did extensive research. “I had my sons to help up to ground level,” he says. “There’s twenty-seven feet buried underground, to solid rock. But not wanting any life-endangering or injuring accidents, I refused any help from ground level to its 61-foot height.”

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One of the spectacular views from the lighthouse. ...

Construction began on the lighthouse in the fall of 1995, and it took three years to finish as well as “twice my original estimate in dollars,” says Bill. “I’ll never live that down!” He was originally going to extend the tower two stories higher, but he says the view encompassed everything he wanted at its present height. “So I quit early, but happy,” he says. The operating light in the lighthouse is 56,000 candlepower with a flash every 18 seconds, and is registered with the FAA. “Occasionally,” says Bill, “we will extinguish the lamp for meteor showers or when the northern lights are giving a splendid show.”

“We’ve been in this B & B business for over thirteen years and we love it,” says Bill. “We love the people we meet and serve. People say, ‘How can you have strangers in your home?’ We reply, ‘They’re only strangers for about fifteen minutes.’ We’ve never had a guest — out of thousands — that we would not welcome back to our home.”

But time has caught up with the Klauers. “Our age and health will not allow us to handle it anymore,” Bill says. “I’m almost wheelchair bound and not able to do the necessary things to run the inn.” When the house was built over 40 years ago it seemed like a good idea to have multiple levels. The house appears to be two stories but in fact it has nine different levels, a fact that’s not compatible with using a wheelchair.

“We would love to see this landmark of ours continue as a bed and breakfast inn,” says Bill Klauer. “That’s why we are offering it as a turnkey sale — absolutely everything goes with the house. But we are also just offering it as a home with attached lighthouse. Or for some, a lighthouse with attached home.”

The inn has a total of seven bedrooms, five baths, five fireplaces, a large sunken great room with a fireplace, a huge sunken dining room, a unique modern kitchen, a mid-level galleried library with a firestove, an indoor greenhouse, a separate three-room suite with fireplace on the lower level, an indoor pool and hot-tub, and a sauna and exercise area with a fireplace. It has four garages, and it’s on a paved road and has three paved driveways. The owner’s suite on the upper level has a large bedroom with a sitting area, an office and full bath. The outside balcony off the owner’s bedroom overlooks the lighthouse, a large, wrap-around sundeck and miles of views.

Update: In 2021 we were notified that this property was sold and the lighthouse was demolished.

This story appeared in the March 2004 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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